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Five Salem Witches Exonerated - 300 Years Later
November 2, 2001 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Five Salem Witches Exonerated - 300 Years Later I would say something like "It's about damned time" -- but like the various Christian denominations apologizing for the Trail of Tears and participation in the slave trade, perhaps it is simply too late. There is no risk in making this gesture at this time. And what is the message here? That these women simply were not guilty of the charges levelled, or that it was wrong to persecute on such a basis in any case?
posted by grabbingsand (20 comments total)

 
From the article: "The state has tried to make amends before. In 1711, all the accused were exonerated and their relatives offered retribution. But, whether out of fear or shame, not all the families came forward to accept the apology."

So evidently the gesture was also made in a time when there was some risk to it.

I agree that this was the right thing to do, but saying "It's about damned time" makes it sound like, up to now, everyone was pretending that there was nothing wrong with the witch trials. It seems to me that the state is just formally expressing what virtually everyone has accepted for years.
posted by moss at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2001


2001 too little too late award.
posted by adampsyche at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2001


Sounds to me like they're just doing it to appease the descendents of the accused. Not that that changes the fact that it's a completely pointless gesture or anything...
posted by zztzed at 12:20 PM on November 2, 2001


I'm a bit troubled by the notion that historical wrongs have to be righted somehow, as if that were possible. Where do we draw the line? Do we want an apology for the crucifixion of jesus? {secondary question: had jesus not been crucified, he wouldn't have arisen, and much of the foundation of christianity would be gone - so is it a backhanded favor to the christians?}

Granted, the Vatican has made formal apologies regarding Newton, Copernicus, and even Darwin. But surely that's more from a PR standpoint than from guilt/ sense of justice.

I don't have an answer. Obviously, the notion of justice includes correction of past wrongs, but how far back do we go? Reparations for victims of U.S. Internment Camps of WWII - OK. Euroamerica apologizing to whoever for the crusades - not OK.

Anybody got a handy rule-of-thumb for this?
posted by yesster at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2001


water under the bridge.
posted by kliuless at 12:24 PM on November 2, 2001


What's Euroamerica?
posted by Zootoon at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2001


We acknowledge that it was bad and wrong for our great-great-ever-so-great-ancestors to commit sub-speciesist oppression against all those poor Neanderthal persons, and we further acknowledge that all descendents of any such oppressor Homo sapiens sapiens who presently benefits from said oppression owes massive reparations to any and all persons of Homo sapiens neanderthalensis background/ethnicity.
posted by jfuller at 1:49 PM on November 2, 2001


euroamerica - in the context of the crusades, we can't pinpoint one present nation or region as having been accountable. The populations have intermingled too much for that. The descendents of the original crusaders (and their political backers) are now citizens of the US and all of Europe - hence, "Euroamerica."

That's the main problem with redresing historical wrongs - the original groups (victim and aggressor) no longer exist.
posted by yesster at 2:13 PM on November 2, 2001


Reparations! $$$$$$$$ and interest for all the years too. Everyone wants reparations for one or another thing, why not the witches (or if you prefer, alleged witches)
posted by Postroad at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2001


OK, thanks.
posted by Zootoon at 2:17 PM on November 2, 2001


Postroad: As you have surmised, the only acceptable solution to this situation is the immediate provision for monetary reparations.

I, like all rational human beings, demand that an international tribunal be set up to disburse funds to anyone whose family may have suffered, however remotely, at the hands of those Puritan imperialists.

I also demand that the tribunal dedicate itself to tracking down any surviving descendants of the oppressors, so that they may be stripped of their ill-gotten possessions and dragged through the streets in chains.

This is the only acceptable way to impose historical justice. Anyone who opposes this solution must, clearly, be an oppressor themselves, and should be punished accordingly. Thank you.
posted by aramaic at 2:25 PM on November 2, 2001


being a decendant of one of those victims, i should be receiving a check soon right?

or maybe 40 acres and a mule.
posted by jcterminal at 2:42 PM on November 2, 2001


> The descendents of the original crusaders (and their
> political backers) are now citizens of the US and all of
> Europe

Not to mention lineal descendents all over the Middle East. These, of course, will be required to pay reparations to themselves.
posted by jfuller at 2:46 PM on November 2, 2001


Well, those women were murdered, weren't they? By the state? It's been so long that it would be hard for us to take it very seriously, but still, they were killed for insane, stupid reasons, and branded something that they weren't.
If a court of law incorrectly found me to be a child molesting murdered, for instance, I'd like my ancestors to clear my name, if possible.
posted by Doug at 3:07 PM on November 2, 2001


The rich and powerful, be they members of the domineering race, religion, social class, etc, always seek to minimize their terrible guilt. All criminals seek the same.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:17 PM on November 2, 2001


So, what's the difference between being exonerated (as in 1711) and 'cleared by name' (as in now)?

It seems to me that since reparations were offered almost 300 years ago that the duty of modern Americans to reparate is done. Besides, my ancestors were still busy avoiding persecution in their home countries. I think there's got to be a statute of limitations on this sort of thing.
posted by dness2 at 4:31 PM on November 2, 2001


"These people were victims of hysteria, and they paid deeply with their lives,"

Poppycock I say! [sorry couldnt resist]

There was little hysteria, the religious syllogisms are nice and precise once you accept the root assumptions. These actions were carried out by people who could convince a credulous or ignorant person to join the side of extreme punishment.

Its false and just plain wrong to sweep wrongdoings under the blanket of hysteria. Muder, genocides, etc happen in "reasonable" societies all through history. The lesson that should be learned is that a critical eye cast on the norm and the assumptions of the day is probably the best way to protect your rights and the rights of others.
posted by skallas at 4:41 PM on November 2, 2001


But...she turned me into a newt....
posted by rushmc at 5:45 PM on November 2, 2001


rushmc = winnar!
posted by aramaic at 9:31 PM on November 2, 2001


It got better.
posted by rushmc at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2001


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